Friday, October 18, 2013

Fall Clean Up

Rather than having an all-out spring cleaning and fall cleaning routines, I tend to concentrate my cleaning efforts indoors in the spring and outdoors in the fall. Here are a few tips and tricks for getting your outdoor living areas ready for their winter sleep.
Tool shed and garage:
  1. Begin by pulling out absolutely everything into the yard or driveway. (This is very similar to how I clean and organize my closets and drawers inside the house in the spring.) 
  2. Wipe down all shelving and sweep the floor. If you wish, you may treat stains on the concrete using cleaning agents appropriate for the job.
  3. Install or arrange shelving and other storage areas for best access. Keeping everything one unit deep around the parameter of the space makes it easier to find things. 
  4. Use old metal or plastic shelving and used kitchen cabinets from off the street or from yard sales for organizing lawn and garden chemicals and smaller tools. Plastic garbage cans are great for keeping long-handled tools from getting out of hand. 
  5. Hang things on the wall from hooks as much as possible. Even bicycles can be stored on hooks from the rafters.
  6. Baskets and plastic bins which fit the shelving help keep like items together. We have one just for painting equipment, another for small gardening tools, and one for containers of fluids for the car.
  7. Once your storage solutions are in place, evaluate each item in that space and make a decision whether to keep, pitch, or give it away. Remember to check your local area for safe disposal of chemicals, including old paint, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and fluids for the car.

Lawn and garden:
  1. Raking the leaves isn't just for fun and exercise. Unless you use a mulching lawn mower, it's also good for your grass. While a few leaves on the lawn won't matter much, a heavy layer can impede the growth of cool-weather grasses like Kentucky bluegrass. Also, a deep raking will break up the thatch, a hard layer of dead grass along the ground which hinders healthy new growth.
  2. Clean up dead and diseased leaves and debris from off of and under plants and dispose of them. If left in place, they will re-infest the plants again in the spring.
  3. Cut all spent perennials to the ground and lay a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over them to protect the bulbs from heaving out of the ground when it thaws and re-freezes over the cold months. This might be a good use for those leaves you raked. Also, consider using pine needles and trimmings from fir trees if you have them.
  4. Weed and feed the lawn according to the type of grass you have. 
  5. Bring in or cover open containers such as terra cotta and concrete planters and bird baths. If rain gets into them and freezes, they may crack or break.
  6. Clean, sharpen, and oil your gardening tools before storing them for the winter. They will be free of rust and ready to use in the spring.
  7. Plant spring flowering bulbs (just about anything on sale during the fall in your area is game), and bring in plants which will not survive the frost and freezing weather.

Porches and decks:
  1. If you use your enclosed porch for a storage area (shame on you! -- I do, too), use this time to go through everything like you did for the garage/shed. Bring in all books, fabric, fluids which will freeze, and anything else which can become ruined with harsh weather conditions.
  2. Wash down walls, storage containers, shelving, and furniture. Launder cushion covers or wipe down all-weather fabrics. Dust any other furniture. 
  3. Bring in houseplants which may have been kept on the porch for the summer.
  4. Vacuum indoor/outdoor carpeting and/or mop down the porch floor. 
  5. Clean and replace rugs and put out the boot scraper for muddy, winter foot wear.
  6. Use a deck cleaner to remove dirt and mold from wooden decking; strip any unwanted stain or other finish which has become unsightly; and re-seal the deck with an appropriate sealer.
No, this is not our sidewalk. :)
Side walks and driveways:
  1. Make repairs of cracks while the weather is still warm. Once water gets in and freezes, the concrete will expand and break further.
  2. Run an edging tool along the edges of your sidewalks and driveways to impede new spring growth which tends to spill over and start taking over those areas. It just looks a lot neater, too.:)
  3. Be sure you have a good snow shovel or snow blower if you get snow in your area. Make sure the snow blower works and that you have a supply of fuel for it.
  4. Also, keep a good supply of kitty litter, sand, or pesticide-, herbicide-free fertilizer on hand for better traction on snow and ice. I dont' recommend salt or anything with salt, including fertilizers, since it ruins concrete in no time flat. Store it in a lidded container near the door with a scoop.
That should be enough to get you started. Have I forgotten anything? What are your ideas? Please feel free to leave them in the Comments below.